I was part of a team that came together at the end of 2015 to organise an event that would provide a space for reflection and debate on the theme of South Asia and the First World War. The evening included discussion, preceded by short presentations from various projects 1 engaged in commemorating the contribution of troops and personnel from South Asia (including modern day India and Pakistan), who served as part of Britain’s imperial army in the First World War.
The event was held at King’s College London on Wednesday 27 April 2016 to mark the 100th anniversary of the fall of Kut, possibly the biggest disaster in the Indian First World War calendar. It was made possible through a partnership between The National Archives, Kings College London, the Asian Centre (Wood Green) and performing arts company, Nutkhut.
The small team of organisers met on several occasions to help scope out the event and there was considerable behind the scenes activity to ensure that there was wide representation at the event. There was also work to ensure the event was recorded – you can listen to an audio recording of the event or watch video interviews with the organisers below. Dr Santanu Das 2 – who was key to drawing such a wide network together – makes several important points in the video, including the need to go beyond a simple commemoration of ‘imperial heroics’ and ‘brotherhood’ and the importance of looking history squarely in the eye without sanitising its horrors or inequalities. Continue reading »
- 1. Santanu Das (chair), Ajay Chhabra, Eleanor Harding, Iqbal Husain, Dominic Rai, Manish Tayal, Avaes Mohammad, Rozina Visram, Jasdeep Singh and Harbakhsh Grewal. ^
- 2. The National Archives’ podcast India in the First World War includes Dr Santanu Das cautioning against sanitising the colonial experience or lapsing into imperial nostalgia. He also highlights the importance of using songs, artefacts and oral memories as a way of recovering the story of South Asian troops. ^